Personal Finance

5 Budget-Friendly Work From Home Hacks to Boost Your Comfort and Productivity

Staying focused and comfortable when working from home can be challenging. Learn about budget-friendly hacks that can help keep your head in the game.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our lives have changed dramatically. Among the changes, the transition from working in an office to working remotely has fundamentally redefined work and productivity. For most of us, this transition has not been easy.

Although working from home is convenient and eliminates commuting, it can be more difficult than working at a traditional office. Fortunately, each of these budget-friendly hacks could help you work more comfortably and efficiently without breaking the bank:

Arrange Your Schedule as You Normally Would

Sleeping and waking up earlier can be beneficial to your productivity

Optimise your remote work experience by arranging your daily schedule as you normally would when going to the office. Even though eliminating transportation time might look like an opportunity to sleep in, we highly recommend waking up and going to sleep at earlier times.

The reason is simple. When your body adapts to a consistent daily schedule, it can be more adept at handling the tasks of the day. Moreover, it allows you to visualise your day and plan accordingly. Implementing stricter scheduling regimens help you approach your designated work times more seriously, while simultaneously allowing you time for self care and relaxation.

Furthermore, stricter scheduling can lead to better sleep. According to Channel News Asia, 6 of 10 Singaporeans have experienced a decline in sleep quality since the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also found that there is a correlation between the ongoing decline in sleep quality and work-related stress. If you make a concentrated effort to stick to a routine, you may experience a more enriching work-life balance.

Make Coffee and Lunch at Home

You can save hundreds a year from making coffee at home

Although coffee shops and restaurants remain open for takeaway, making coffee and lunch at home is the most financially responsible way to fuel your workplace cravings. According to a ValueChampion study, purchasing coffee daily from Starbucks can cost around S$1,300 a year or more. However, investing in a coffee maker and fresh beans or grounds from a supermarket can result in annual savings in the hundreds. In fact, there are several financially-friendly coffee hacks that can save you money immediately.

Spending money on takeaway or food delivery services can be similarly expensive, particularly when you are right next to the kitchen. Although it is commendable to help delivery workers during this time, smart consumers should be aware of the extra charges that may accrue from ordering via food delivery mobile apps. The "real cost" of food delivery is much higher than picking up takeaway, let alone preparing lunch at home:

Hidden Costs of Food Delivery

Markups and Extra Fees
Value Lost
Item markup price on app25% to 30% above regular cost
Delivery chargeS$2 and above
Small order feeAdditional charge depending on total cost of the order
Additional service feeS$0.20 and above depending on app used

Create a DIY Ergonomic Home Office Setup

Standing desks are common for those looking for an ergonomic home office setup

For maximum comfort when working, many so-called experts suggest that you should purchase a standing desk or expensive office chair. You may even have an optimised work setup at your normal office, and haven't realised the differences until working from home. However, instead of spending money on expensive equipment, try out some do-it-yourself (DIY) tricks online to recreate your work environment at home.

Sit-stand desks are often recommended because they allow users to adjust their preferred working position throughout the day and encourage movement. But instead of purchasing sit-stand desks that can run you hundreds of dollars,make one at home by simply creating height in your home office setup. Consider stacking multiple thick books on top of your desktop to either encourage you to sit more upright or to even stand while working. Your back will thank you, and so will your savings account.

Designate Separate Areas for Work and Relaxation

Make sure to clearly delineate your workspace from living area

Another important way to stay sharp while working at home is by creating separation between your work area and private living quarters. This solution will be different for everyone, as some people are generally more adaptable with their space whereas others demand quiet concentration. Regardless of which group you belong to, we find that at least designating a consistent workplace versus relaxation space (such as your bed) is good for keeping yourself accountable.

Even in a small apartment, this is doable. There are a number of ways you can hack your small apartment into a comfortable living space as well as a function-forward home office. If you are in a bigger, multi-room unit, it might be beneficial to devote a whole room or at least a clearly defined area in another room to serve as your very own full-service home office.

Exercise and Move Your Body

Regular exercise is good for both mental and physical wellness

Our final recommendation to optimise your remote work experience is simply to get up off your chair and walk around when you begin to feel fatigue. Additionally, exercise in any form will keep your body and mind alert and ready to perform. We have all finished work days feeling lethargic or sluggish from sitting too long, but movement and change of visual stimuli will allow you to feel rewarded in different ways.

Even if you are worried that taking your focus off of work for a moment will negatively affect your work performance, we encourage this tactic to improve your focus in the long run.

Seaton Huang

Seaton Huang is a Junior Research Analyst covering consumer finance products in Hong Kong. As an alumnus of Columbia University (M.A., 2020), Northeastern University (B.A., 2019), and a former Fulbright Fellow at Shaanxi Normal University (2018), he has significant academic and analytical expertise in the economic and political terrains of China, Hong Kong, and Asia Pacific. His past research has concerned the socioeconomic effects of mobile payment systems in China and the efficacy of China's Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia, among other poignant topics in contemporary Asia.